The Limelight series focuses on employee culture across the iSpot organization. Follow along as we take a closer look at the real people behind one of the most comprehensive TV ad catalogs and more.
This month we interview Nicole Lawless DesJardins, Principal Data Scientist, and uncover her journey into the TV advertising industry.
What is your current role at iSpot.tv?
I’m a Principal Data Scientist, which means I wear many fabulous hats. I help lead the overall strategy for data science at iSpot and mentor other scientists. I develop KPI-focused models and work closely with engineers to get them into production (I spend most of my IC time working on our Conversions offerings). I also spend a fair amount of time talking to people outside of iSpot: I educate, consult, and collaborate with our customers and data partners.
How did your background lead you here?
My PhD is in personality psychology. My academic research focused on making first impressions and gaining and asserting social status. While that may seem like a far cry from TV advertising, at the end of the day I’m really just trying to understand what people are doing and why. My doctoral training focused heavily on quantitative, observational research methods, which translate directly to the work I do at iSpot.
What are the typical challenges you face in your role?
The Data Science team works with a tremendous amount of data from a variety of sources. One of our primary challenges is understanding what the data can – and, more importantly, cannot – tell us. We’re dedicated to building useful tools that we can be proud of, and sometimes that involves making difficult decisions around the functionality we can produce. In the end, though, having a deep understanding of our data assets means we can provide our customers with best-in-class media measurement that they can rely on.
What is the most exciting part about your role?
First place goes to releasing a product feature. It can be so satisfying to see something that started as a sketch on a whiteboard be released out into the wild. Second place goes to how varied my role is – switching contexts can be challenging, but I love that no two days ever really look the same for me.
You didn’t work with TV advertising before iSpot; did you have a lot to learn?
Yes! Among other things, I’ve had to learn a lot about how brands buy TV advertising. Before working at iSpot, my knowledge was basically limited to ‘Super Bowl ads are expensive.’ Understanding how brands make buying decisions is critical to my role. It helps shape the questions my team asks and the products we build, always with an eye toward empowering our clients to make well-informed decisions about where to put their money. And, of course, it’s something I continue to learn, as the market is ever-evolving (though Super Bowl ads are still expensive).
In the two years that you’ve worked at iSpot, how have you seen the TV advertising landscape change?
With the rise of addressable and OTT campaigns, I see a much stronger emphasis on understanding the audience. Brands want to go beyond traditional age and gender breakdowns to get a more nuanced view of who they’re reaching. We’re busy building tools to help them do that, while maintaining high ethical standards and protecting audience members’ privacy.
What is the most rewarding part about working at iSpot?
I work with amazing people. The scientists, analysts, and engineers I work with are delightful folks who also happen to be wildly intelligent and competent. They push me to deliver my best work, and I love being part of such a strong team.